Outreach Events


I know this is a long article but it really challenged me to evaluate what is a true outreach event and what is my plan to reach to those who do not know Christ.  I have become a really big Jonathan McKee fan lately.  A few weeks ago I read his book Do They Run When They See You Coming and I am currently reading Getting Students to Show Up.  This book will cause you to evaluate what you are doing to reach those outside the church walls.  Below I have posted  an excerpt from the book, if you are a pastor with the goal of reaching unchurched students definitely check out the book and go read the excerpt.


(This article is an excerpt from Jonathan’s new book GETTING STUDENTS TO SHOW UP.)

The word outreach is slapped onto the titles of a variety of programs. It’s a buzzword that’s probably thrown around a lot more than it’s actually thought about.

   I’ve been to hundreds of “outreach” programs where no reaching out took place. Instead, the purpose of these programs always seemed to be worship or helping Christians grow in their faith. Noble purposes, indeed-but not “outreach” by any means.

   I’ve spoken at “outreach” rallies where the first thing out of the emcee’s mouth is “How many of you are here to celebrate Jesus?”

   Think about that for a second.

   How many students who aren’t believers do you think came to that event to “celebrate Jesus”? Granted, many of these “rallies” are full of Christians who scream in excitement and yell in celebration, so the statement isn’t usually received poorly. But what’s wrong with this picture?

    I see two oversights:

  1. Why is our audience 90 percent Christians? We’re talking about an outreach program, right? At an outreach program we might want to draw teenagers who don’t believe in Jesus yet. Do you remember Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park? During that first uneventful tour of the park, he says, “Now eventually you might have dinosaurs on your dinosaur tour, right?” He taps on the camera. “Hello? Yes?”So why aren’t the “outreach kids” attending? Didn’t our church kids believe us when we said, “Bring your friends who need to hear about Jesus”? The sad truth: Our audience is often made up of the wrong students. No wonder they didn’t object when we yelled, “How many of you are here to celebrate Jesus?”Which leads us to our second blunder.
  2. If we’re trying to draw out unbelievers, then why are we talking to them as though they’re already Christians? Imagine you’re asked to emcee the MTV Music Awards. The arena is decorated. All of the hottest artists have walked the red carpet and taken their seats. The crowd is full of screaming music fans. Now the program begins, and you walk onstage and yell, “How many of you are here to celebrate Jesus?”Awkward.None of us would yell such a phrase to that crowd. So why do we do it at our “outreach” events?

The truth of the matter is this: Many of us label our programs “outreach,” but we don’t always draw the students we’re supposed to reach. Even if we do, we often talk to them as if they’re Christians. Why?

   What if some of the difficulty lies in the fact that we don’t really know much about this “animal” we’re attempting to tame? We’ve never taken the time to really look at our goals for this kind of programming and put it into words. We never took the time to define it.


2 thoughts on “Outreach Events

  1. Great thoughts Darrell! When I was doing youth ministry, one of my absolute favorite events was our outreach basketball. We partnered with a school down the street from the church and got them to let us open up the gym for kids to come in and play on Friday nights. We had to do a lot with our leaders to get them in a mentality of not jumping all over the non-believers (i.e. letting some cussing slide instead of jumping on them at every instant) but the point was just to hang out. At the end we’d say that we ran youth group at our church and they were welcome to come check it out if they were interested. Then we’d pray. That was it. No outstanding gospel message, just us being real with some cool kids and playing basketball.

    Eventually some of them started coming to youth group, but it wasn’t until we’d hung out with them a number of weeks and started to befriend them. This is a great thing to be thinking about, not just for youth pastors, but I think that sometimes even as churches we aren’t really reaching out with outreaches and instead just end up recruiting people from other churches. Believe it or not, most non-believers I know aren’t picking a church just based off of having cool worship 🙂

  2. Sports is definitely a draw. It is awesome to see how God was able to use that basketball time to draw people into your youth group.

    I think we are missing the boat on how to reach to the unchurched and I think at the heart of it is we are trying to draw them in with things that appeal to Christian kids. Another error is if we do get them in we begin to expect that immediately they act like a Christian kid. They aren’t in Christ, so we cannot expect that they act like Christ.

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